Women with HIV as empowerment process facilitators among their peers
M. Solis Neri, M. Serrano Gaspar
Mexicanas Positivas Frente a la Vida, Estado de México, Mexico
Issues: Traditionally -and unacceptably- in concentrated epidemics women with HIV (WH) have few opportunities to access training and education designed, developed and implemented by WH among their peers. Commonly WH attend mixed self-help groups which do not address their specific needs, especially since WH experiences differ widely from other populations affected by HIV.
Description: Planning our Empowerment, an ICW-Mexico project trained 10 positive female leaders as empowerment process facilitators among their peers. A manual was developed and trainees were provided with tools to manage/facilitate group dynamics on relevant issues: living with HIV, gender, self esteem, sexuality, and stigma and discrimination. Improving facilitation skills was a key component reinforced by successfully planning an effective peer empowerment workshop, logistics, resources needed and conflict resolution issues were addressed. On-site technical assistance was provided to ensure workshop organization; development, documentation and evaluation were fully implemented. Support provided by the lead trainer throughout the workshops greatly helped to ensure successful facilitation and participants' satisfaction.
Lessons learned: Lack of experience was not an insurmountable obstacle for trainees; a capacity building process directly supported in the field by lead trainers, and practical steps to enhance facilitation skills were effective for responsible knowledge and skills transfer and support. Building safe spaces for WH where trust and ongoing ownership of the program was evident. These characteristics are critical for a sustainable support program that WH will find useful and valuable.
Next steps: More spaces are needed where WH have access to opportunities for becoming peer facilitators, educators and community mobilizers. Women formed through this kind of process can play a key role in empowering more WH, as well as building a community of support that is owned by the women it benefits.
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